To do list
– Make the show
– Order the portable speakers
– Get places to do the show
– Talk to the costume designer about bird hats but also making a new costume for a Magnificent Frigatebird
– Decide on numbers of posters
– Create text for posters
– Check with Commonwealth Games that posters are acceptable for brand identity
– Get more yellow/gold costumes including more gold kagools and visors
– Get a hula hoop
– Get a trophy, fake flowers and a plastic champagne bottle
– Pay people who are doing work for me
– Pay myself
– Invoice for money so I can pay myself
– Plan my holiday
– Just make the goddamn show
Now is the month and time of making and doing. This is the time longed for in the dark days of planning and admin and applying and questioning the truth in calling yourself an artist. This is the hour. If not now, when? If not you, then who?
And of course there are jobs to be done within the making – jobs that feel like admin, like a chore, like drudgery. Searching the internet for just the right kind of portable speaker and ordering mini SD cards that should be cheap but not so cheap that they won’t work (fears of false economy…). These tasks do not sit well with my misty-eyed vision of what being an artist is.
When I look back at my college days to remember just what it is I think I’m doing, I picture huge sun-filled dance studios to roll around in, walks along the mighty River Dart contemplating its treacherous eddies and ripples, hugging ancient trees in beautifully-manicured gardens.
I’m not making it up. It was that way.
But do I think that these wondrous conditions are necessary for making now? Can there be artistry in making strong decisions about the kinds of technologies the audience will use in my work? If this is work about an interaction and it hopes to exist within the world then it must matter that the objects and clothes used in the work do the right job. It almost becomes the work itself, these choices of things.
Maybe that’s the little thorn for me. A little niggle in the background says it’s only gimmicks and flashy objects. That’s what you do. It’s not the real deal. It’s not the pure, Aryan race kind of theatre that other, better people make. Oh, it’s just for families… Oh, it happens outside… Oh, it’s just some iPads – you get an iPad and you look around…
And one way to deal with that niggle is to say, Fine, I’ll make a studio piece. I’ll go back inside. I’ll use lights and sound and I’ll do a dance in a big space and roll around and conjure up the river and the trees where there are none and the people will come out of that box with their eyes and ears and senses freshened and they’ll be laughing and hugging one another and wiping away a few happy, wistful tears and I will be proper and will take it on tour to the other proper indoor spaces and sell tickets and get per diems and see the world and do after-show talks and win awards and do interviews and get my picture in the paper.
But that’s not what I’m doing now. Just now I’m making my bird project and I’m refreshing my bicycle project and I’m enlarging Everyone’s A Winner, Baby!, all for the Commonwealth Games. None of them will take place in a theatre. All of them rely on carrying a portable theatrical space out into the real world and seeing what happens. So I have to use that niggle that says “This is just a bit of fun to pass the time or to pass by on the way to something better” and I need to ask how I can instill these seemingly simple works with meaning and authenticity. Then they can be fun, but also do something else.
Of course, it is tricky to trust the vision that helps you make decisions. Are you going for simple solutions because they’re perfect or because it makes life easier? What am I avoiding? What is being left out or muted because it is difficult to manage in this non-theatre context? How much can I ask of my audience? How can I manage an experience so that it feels safe but also risky?
And how to I get myself to just make the goddamn work? I say to myself and others that I’m not good at planning or being motivated, but then I wonder just how good I need to be and on whose terms? If the work gets made and the collaborators feel supported and valued then does it matter if it’s pulled together in the last minute?
But then my head goes back to that vision of the sunlit dance studios and remembers that there is something that happens there that can’t happen while waiting for an Amazon package to arrive and the vision tells me to carve out some sacred time and space – just in case that’s exactly what I need.
After I wrote this I chose some reading material for visiting the toilet and was heartened to see that I’d picked up a book called Navigating the Unknown: The creative process in contemporary performing arts and turned to a section called “All in a day’s work” which seems apt. Here’s the first paragraph:
“On the journey that an artist makes in the creation of contemporary performance, from the initial idea or commission to the manifestation of that work in a public engagement, a series of choices are encountered and a set of decisions are made. This ‘tying yourself to a particular choice’, as Shobana Jeyasingh conceives it, is ‘always a moment of suffering’. This suffering arises from the what might have been and the if only, a kind of retroactive configuring of the future possibilities of the work that isn’t about to be made, that results from the decisions that were discarded.”